On 1 June 2016, the city of Bordeaux opened the Cité du Vin et des Civilisations, a huge cultural complex fully dedicated to the wines of the world and to the region’s viticultural heritage. The building was built by the architectural firm XTU.
The place is impressive: its curves give the impression of movement in an uninterrupted flow, which fits harmoniously with the winding landscape drawn by the Garonne. Historically, this district of Bassins à Flots was the old port that represented the gateway to Bordeaux.
Depending on the fancy of the person contemplating it, the Cité des Vins may evoque the meanderings of the vine or the spiralling of the wine turning in the glass. Its glint evolves with the light of day and of the seasons. The building was conceived by the architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Dezmazières from the Paris firm XTU.
The inside of the building was fitted out be scenographers from the British firm Casson Mann, who created an immersive and innovative permanent exhibition walkthrough. Visitors explore all aspects of wine here by means of the latest digital technologies using 3D images and fragrance diffusion systems.
The structure was opened in grand ceremony on 1 June. Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux, not attempting to conceal his satisfaction, affirmed that the city now had “its Guggenheim”. He took the opportunity to stress the site’s economic development objectives.
Wines through history
The Cité du Vin et des Civilisations covers 13,500 m², distributed over 10 levels. The building, whose spire is 55 metres high, affords a unique panorama of Bordeaux and the banks of the Garonne as it pours into the Atlantic. The sea theme is omnipresent: the imposing wooden vault draws its inspiration from a ship’s frame.
Wine is present is its different dimensions: culture, civilisation and heritage. The city of Bordeaux has great expectations for this new attraction. The objective is to attract 450,000 visitors per year. The net is thrown to the many tourists visiting the region’s vineyards but also to the region’s residents who will find exhibitions, an auditorium, three restaurants, a boutique, a library and a garden with free entrance, areas that can be made private for hosting clients, etc.
“The Cité du Vin is a great piece of cultural equipment which will accelerate international tourism to Bordeaux. It will be a gateway between Bordeaux and the world’s vineyards”, says Sylvie Cazes, president of the Fondation pour la Culture et les Civilisations du Vin.
The project has already created 250 direct jobs and 500 indirect jobs. According to the Foundation, the economic benefits for the region could reach 38 million euros per year when the site reaches cruising speed.
With this initiative, Bordeaux has shown how much benefit a city can draw from championing its heritage. Be they cultural, historical, technical or economic, our greatest assets are often those that define us, that are an integral part of our identity and our history. An example for Brussels?